INSIGHT-A nurse struggled with COVID-19 trauma. He was found dead in his car
From major disaster, conflicts and under-reported stories, we shine a light on the world’s hotspots
Newsletter sign up:
- How cities around the world are lifting coronavirus restrictions
- ‘Commons’ effort seeks to keep U.S. farmland affordable – indefinitely
- Cities hastily add pandemics to long list of 21st-century threats
- Coronavirus puts 4 million girls at risk of child marriage
- Bangladesh vows help to sex workers hit by coronavirus for as long as needed
By Gabriella Borter
May 20 (Reuters) – Becoming a nurse in 2018 was a dream come true for William Coddington.
He loved helping people and feeling needed at his West Palm Beach, Florida hospital. The 32-year-old was on the upswing of a decade-long battle with opioid addiction and other substance abuse, according to friends and family, who said he was committed to his recovery.
It all started to unravel in March, as fatally ill COVID-19 patients showed up in his intensive care unit.
It rattled Coddington to see patients his age die, his mother Carolyn said. He could no longer attend his 12-step recovery meetings in person. He was scared about how little personal protective equipment he had. He had nightmares about alarms going off on ventilators in the ICU.
On the night of April 24, he spoke by phone to his best friend Robert Marks and sounded distraught, Marks said. Coddington was caught between the war zone at work and his confinement at home.
“Don’t take unnecessary risks but hang in there,” Marks texted him.
The next morning, Coddington was found dead in his car in a hotel parking lot in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
His family suspects a drug overdose. A spokeswoman for the Broward County Medical Examiner’s office said the case is pending. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said it is still investigating but does not suspect foul play.
Reuters reconstructed Coddington’s last weeks through some of his text messages, Facebook posts and interviews with his parents, brother and two close friends. Reuters could not independently verify Coddington’s cause of death.
Frontline healthcare workers are trying to cope with the trauma of treating the novel coronavirus, which has inundated U.S. hospitals with desperately ill patients and killed more than 90,000 Americans in less than three months.
Healthcare workers with histories of substance abuse may have more difficulty coping with fear, isolation and witnessing so much death during the pandemic, psychiatrists told Reuters. Those factors could provoke relapses in workers recovering from addiction, they said.